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Crooked Knife 



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Crooked Knife 



Written By: Tim Anderson 



TOOLS: 



Hoof knife (1) 



SUMMARY 

The crooked knife is the northern nomad's woodworking tool. All the northern tribes in North 
America and Asia have their own version of it. My farm relatives use them to trim their 
horse's hooves. I think that whatever wave of invaders brought horse culture to Europe must 
have brought this style of knife with them. 

I made this particular knife years ago from plans in the book Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth 
Jaeger (1945). 



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Crooked Knife 



Step 1 — Jaeger's Plans. 



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• Jaeger's drawings are a bit vague about blade shape (see Plate 88). When you hold the 
knife as seen in the photo, the side of the tip is bent toward you. The side of the blade 
facing away from you is left flat; don't grind on that side at all. All the grinding is done on 
the side of the blade toward you. 

• He describes how an Indian craftsman "tempers the blade, hard at first, and draws the 
temper by heating to a yellow color." By "yellow color" he means a yellow oxide layer, not 
a yellow heat glow. 

• In 1945 everyone would have known exactly what he meant from watching blacksmiths at 
work. Today these words need further explanation. For more details read The Making of 
Tools (1973) or any other blacksmithing book from your local library. 



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Crooked Knife 



Step 2 



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• I made my knife just that way, 
except I used an industrial 
hacksaw blade instead of a file for 
stock. Some saw blades are made 
with hard teeth and a soft blade, 
but the back of this one is hard 
enough to hold an edge without any 
hardening/tempering. 

• I carved the handle from a chunk of 
an elm tree in our yard that was 
dying of Dutch elm disease. I 
wrapped the handle with a strip of 
elm bark to hold the side plug in 
place. The wood of the handle 
shrank and gripped the tang of the 
blade as it dried, so the whole thing 
is very secure. 

• The handle is a bit small, since my 
hand has grown a lot since I made 
it. It fit perfectly at the time, but 
now that I've seen and used many 
crooked knives, I would make the 
handle much smaller where it 
meets the blade. 

• Elm is really nice wood. Like oak it 
has transverse rays in the grain 
that prevent it from splitting. It's too 
bad all those trees died. 



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Crooked Knife 



Step 3 — Mod a hoof knife. 








• The quickest way to make a crooked knife is to modify a hoof knife from a farm supply 
store. Some pet shops carry them with the horse equipment. The hoof knife tip is for 
cleaning a horse's hoof. The tip fits into the contours around the "frog," which is the living 
part of the underside of the hoof. For carving wood you don't need that much of a bent tip. 

• Here's how I modded a hoof knife into a crooked knife in about half an hour. I started with 
a sharpening stone in a leather sheath with Sami glyphs on it that a Finnish friend gave to 
me. It works perfectly as a sheath for the crooked knife with the blade next to the stone. 

• I bought an unmodified hoof knife for $5.35 from a feed store. It was made in 
Pakistan and has a stainless steel blade. Non-stainless is usually better. A blade 
that can rust is usually much better steel. 

• Cut off the end of the handle so it feels better on your thumb. Be aware that hoof knives 
come in right-handed and left-handed versions. Get the correct kind for you. 

• Straighten the blade to suit yourself. Photo 2 shows a finished knife (bottom) next to a 
stock one (top) for comparison. 

• Suit the bend to the work you're doing. The knives used for finishing cedar canoe planks 
are mostly straight with a slight bend in the tip. The Salmon people use a crooked knife 
with a very long handle and a very small bent blade. They use it for carving details on 
totem poles, among other things. 



This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 22 , page 164. 



This document was last generated on 201 2-1 0-31 1 2:38:29 PM. 



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